Image via Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Image via Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

School district finalizing long-term plans

Plans are being made in light of growing COVID-19 case numbers across the peninsula.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is finalizing their long-term operational plans for the rest of the quarter, with a decision to be made Wednesday about which schools will resume on-site learning and when.

District Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said Tuesday that plans are being made in light of growing COVID-19 case numbers across the peninsula.

Erkeneff said that the district continues to receive reports of positive COVID-19 test results from students who attend school on-site during high-risk operations, and from staff members who are still working at schools, sometimes with their own children, wearing masks, in the classroom with them.

Erkeneff said the district had not seen cases rising as dramatically as they have in recent weeks. She encouraged the KPBSD community to continue reporting positive test results to the district.

“The sooner we begin contact tracing will help with further exposure, and help slow down the trend,” Erkeneff said.

Positive cases can be reported anonymously to the district via telephone at 907-260-2391 or via email at iwertz@kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

The district is also hoping to publish a weekly recap of district-specific COVID-19 data, including the number of people at each school who have tested positive and the number of people at each school who have been asked to quarantine, in order to help keep families updated with new developments.

On Tuesday, Susan B. English School in Seldovia moved into high-risk level and began 100% remote learning for Tuesday and Wednesday following confirmation that someone in the Seldovia community tested positive for COVID-19.

In a message to Susan B. English parents, students and staff, Principal Jeff Ambrosier said that KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien will make a decision on Oct. 30 about whether or not the school will open for on-site learning on Nov. 2.

“Our state and the Kenai Peninsula are experiencing a trend of COVID-19 community spread,” the message reads, going on to thank the community for keeping their bubbles small.

Risk levels

Risk levels are one of the major tools the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District uses to determine the status of schools.

DHSS created risk levels as part of a plan to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors, but DHSS says risk levels also can be used to inform decisions by other entities, including schools, institutions of higher learning and businesses.

The Alaska School Activities Association also is using risk levels to make determinations on practices and games for activities and sports.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at high risk, buildings are closed to students and learning is 100% remote.

During 100% remote learning, Get-It and Go meals are free for all students and can be picked up daily at school between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. Meals will not be available on Oct. 29 or on Oct. 30 due to parent-teacher conferences. Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students can still attend classes in person during 100% remote learning.

In determining whether to reopen a school to on-site learning, the district and their Medical Advisory Team analyze 14-day positive case counts, analyze the seven-day positivity trend, consult with medical providers and review their school decision matrix.

Operational risk levels, case incidence rates and case numbers by community are updated daily on the district’s risk levels dashboard at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.

In addition to the schools below, Susan B. English entered high-risk level on Tuesday. The school will operate 100% remotely on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Central Peninsula — High Risk

The central peninsula, or Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and “other North,” had 24 resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 179 cases in the last 14 days.

The central peninsula is high risk when there are 52 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 51 to 26 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are 25 or fewer cases in the last 14 days.

100% remote learning will continue for central peninsula schools through at least Oct. 30. As of Tuesday, the central peninsula would need to lose 128 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.

Central peninsula schools include Aurora Borealis Charter School, K-Beach Elementary, Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences, Kenai Alternative School, Kenai Central High School, Kenai Middle School, Marathon School, Mountain View Elementary, Nikiski Middle-High School, Nikiski North Star Elementary, Redoubt Elementary, River City Academy, Skyview Middle School, Soldotna Elementary School, Soldotna High School, Soldotna Montessori Charter School, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary.

Southern Peninsula — High Risk

The southern peninsula, or Homer, Fritz Creek, Anchor Point and “other South,” had three resident cases reported by the state Wednesday for a total of 35 cases in the last 14 days.

The southern peninsula is at high risk when there are 20 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 19 to 10 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are nine cases or fewer in the last 14 days.

100% remote learning will continue for southern peninsula schools through at least Oct. 30. There is no school on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30 for most southern peninsula schools, due to parent-teacher conferences. Kachemak-Selo, Nikolaevsk, Razdolna and Voznesenka schools are in session Oct. 29 and 30. As of Tuesday, the southern peninsula would need to lose 16 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.

Southern peninsula schools include Chapman School, Fireweed Academy, Homer Flex School, Homer High School, Kachemak Selo School, McNeil Canyon Elementary, Nikolaevsk School, Ninilchik School, Paul Banks Elementary, Razdolna School, Voznesenka School and West Homer Elementary.

Eastern Peninsula — High Risk

The eastern peninsula, or Seward, had one resident case reported by the state Wednesday for a total of eight cases in the last 14 days.

The eastern peninsula is at high risk when there are eight or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are four to seven cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are three or fewer cases in the last 14 days.

100% remote learning will for eastern peninsula schools will continue through at least Oct. 28.

A decision about whether or not eastern peninsula schools will resume in-person learning for the week of Nov. 2 will be made this week, the district said. There is no school on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30 due to parent-teacher conferences. As of Wednesday, the eastern peninsula will need to lose one case from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.

Eastern peninsula schools include Moose Pass School, Seward Elementary, Seward High School and Seward Middle School.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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